21 September 2008
London Calling (or, am I even alive?)
Yesterday, several of us from CMRS traveled to London to enjoy a bit of the (bigger) city life. I'll admit, I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for London, despite its major flaws. After all, it was the first place out of the United States that I ever traveled to, and because of this its magnificence can never be dulled in my eyes.
We arrived in London around 1030, ate breakfast/lunch at a panini place, and then promptly headed to Westminster Abbey, passing Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards ceremony on the way. As I am not familiar with the particular ceremonies associated with the Queen's Guards, I don't feel that I have any right to explain what was going on. However, I will admit that it just appeared to be a rather lot of stomping and a very intense staring competition between one of the black-furred helmet guards and a man with a sword.
It's been sunny in England (surprise!) for the past few days and, as a result, walking into Parliamentary Square was a dazzling experience. Big Ben was at his finest, the gilted tower veritably glowing in the morning rays. The Halls of Parliament looked as splendid as ever, with the rather imposing Westminster Abbey just a short distance away. The abbey is one of my favourite places in London apart from the Tower of London. So imagine my surprise when several of our group did not want to go in because of the £9.00 entrance fee. After all the cathedrals that we have gone to on our field trips, there is absolutely no way that they could miss Westminster Abbey, where the tombs are basically on crack. There is just no way and I told them as much.
We ended up going through the abbey in just under an hour, since several people were heading off to Buckingham Palace and the others were off to see 'The Glass Menagerie' near Kew Gardens. My father will be happy (or perhaps not) to know that Becky (not me or my roommate) was able to covertly take pictures of several of the tombs inside the abbey. Yes, I knew of this blatant delinquency. But I refused to pay £15 per photo just to make my father's geneology book complete. I am a student after all and, because of this, poor.
In accordance with this sudden fit of stinginess I've been having, I decided not to pay the £18 to get into Buckingham Palace and instead met up with Jasy, one of my closest friends from home who is currently studying at Temple's campus in London. We ended up walking around several of the districts of London, climbing up the pedestal of the Trafalgar Square monument, and heading round to Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus is where my father and I stayed when we traveled to London in 2003. The Regency Palace, the rather...interesting hotel that we stayed at last time is closed down completely and the building is undergoing renovations. However, the Jewel restaurant and The Crown are still down the street, which reassured me that not everything familiar can disappear in 5 years time.
There was a period of time when we did manage to get horribly (not really) lost. We walked along the docks of the Thames across from the London eye, visited the Embassy of Texas (which, in fact, really does exist), passed by a monument that informed us we were in Crimea, and a large chunk of buildings who boasted formal government-style titles but in Spanish. Needless to say, we were quite confused by the time we found Buckingham Palace again. I met Jasy's roommate, Beckah, and together we joined those of the CMRS group who had gone to Buckingham Palace. Afterwards, we took the tube to Kings Cross station to visit the infamous Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. It was...interesting.
Overall, it was a fascinating day in which I found that, with the help of a detailed map, I may not be quite as directionally-challenged as I thought. The next few weekends will probably be spent at home since I have to start planning for Armenia (Dad: The current situation in Yerevan is stable, it is only in the north that they are having problems. Also, I am not even entirely certain that I can go due to my tutorials. However, this opportunity is such that I simply can not dismiss it lightly. I will find out all the details and then make my decision based upon that.) and Istanbul (where I am going for certain in November with two guys so I will be safe),
Short trips are in the works for Valencia, Edinburgh (over the long weekend and where I will be acting as impromptu tour guide), Dublin/Cork (instead of Edinburgh), or Geneva. Of course, this all depends on how well my budgeting plan goes, how much work I have to do, and what the current airfares are.
Thanks to everyone for their supportive emails. I will reply to them tonight. It has been a hectic couple of weeks and I apologize for the delay.
Dad/Mum: Don't worry about me. I am fine and loving every minute of Oxford. I promise that I will not pack my bags and head off to Armenia without careful consideration and study.